President Nicos Anastasiades’ two closest advisors in the Cyprus problem negotiations, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Nicos Christodoulides, turned on each other during the first televised debate of presidential candidates broadcast by CyBC on Thursday night.
The Cyprus problem and foreign policy were the main issues discussed in the show in which Disy leader and candidate Averof Neophytou was also a guest.
The disagreement of the president’s former men, who participated in all the meetings on the Cyprus settlement talks centered on events that played out at the meeting in Mont Pelerin, more than five-and-a-half years ago.
Mavroyiannis said that while a milestone was achieved in the Swiss resort, with Turkey, for the first time in the history of the Cyprus problem, agreeing negotiating territorial matters, security and guarantees, “we left at the most critical juncture.”
He said President Anastasiades, at the behest of Christodoulides, walked out, on the pretext he needed to discuss matters with Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Akel chief Andros Kyprianou. This led Mavroyiannis to conclude that “a decision was taken to pull out.”
Asked about his cooperation with Christodoulides, he pointed to Christodoulides’ negative influence over the president and accused him of “undermining my advice to the president.”
Adding further that “when I say undermine, I don’t mean to say that I am necessarily in the right and the other is in the wrong, but rather to say that there have been competing approaches to various issues climaxing to our exit from Mont Pelerin and with our failure to promptly and sufficiently submit our proposals.”
Christodoulides countered that Mavroyiannis was adopting the Turkish narrative as to how the events had played out thus putting the blame on the Greek-Cypriot side for the final collapse of the peace process in Crans Montana, some six months later. He also said Mavroyiannis’ comments, implying that Christodoulides was calling the shots in the talks, were an “insult to the President.”
He then told Mavroyiannis that if he had such strong objections to the handling of the peace process, he should have submitted his resignation. If Christodoulides was in his position he would “resign on the spot,” he said.
Laying out his position on the Cyprus problem, Christodoulides said that it must be “reformulated as an issue of invasion and occupation,” echoing the position of his backers Edek and Diko, and a settlement had to be pursued via the EU. He wanted a representative of the European Council involved in the Cyprus talks.
Neophytou, who had sat back and watched his rivals exchange accusations, argued that Cyprus should stop thinking it could be on good terms with both East and West, because the world was now divided and as an EU member Cyprus belonged in the West. He also said that Cyprus should pursue NATO membership, even though he acknowledged this would only happen after a settlement.
Neophytou also made an issue out his rivals’ lack of trustworthiness abroad. Christodoulides was backed by Diko, which had slammed the Guterres framework, and Edek, which was opposed to bizonal bi-communal federation, the agreed basis for solution. What policy would he be pursuing in the Cyprus problem, Neophytou asked, also presenting the ‘independence’ of his rival as contributing to their lack of credibility.
Regarding the Cyprus problem, Mavroyianis said that “we must be consistent and insist on the agreed basis for the solution” also stressing the need for the immediate restoration of our trustworthiness, the implication being that Anastasiades did not have any. The lack of trustworthiness did not apply to Mavroyiannis who was the Greek Cypriot side’s negotiator, until a few months ago.
“When we left Crans Montana, we were discussing the convergences of the two sides, but then we inserted the idea of a two-state solution, decentralization and a return to the 1960 constitution,” Mavroyiannis added, in a clear dig at Anastasiades.
The television debate recorded high ratings. The show topped all other shows from all channels for that day. In addition, as the debate progressed more and more people tuned in.